The octadecanoic pathway: Signal molecules for the regulation of secondary pathways

Siegfried Blechert, Wilhelm Brodschelm, Swen Hölder, Lothar Kammerer, Toni M. Kutchan, Martin J. Mueller, Zhi Qiang Xia, Meinhart H. Zenk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

395 Scopus citations


Plant defense against microbial pathogens and herbivores relies heavily on the induction of defense proteins and low molecular weight antibiotics. The signals between perception of the aggression, gene activation, and the subsequent biosynthesis of secondary compounds are assumed to be pentacylic oxylipin derivatives. The rapid, but transient, synthesis of cis-jasmonic acid was demonstrated after insect attack on a food plant and by microbial elicitor addition to plant suspension cultures. This effect is highly specific and not caused by a number of environmental stresses such as light, heavy metals, or cold or heat shock. Elicitation of Eschscholtzia cell cultures also led to a rapid alkalinization of the growth medium prior to jasmonate formation. Inhibition of this alkalinization process by the protein kinase inhibitor staurosporine also inhibited jasmonate formation. The induction of specific enzymes in the benzo[c]phenanthridine alkaloid pathway leading to the antimicrobial sanguinarine was induced to a qualitatively and quantitatively similar extent by fungal elicitor, methyl jasmonate, and its linolenic acid-derived precursor 12-oxophytodienoic acid. It is herein proposed that a second oxylipid cascade may exist in plants starting from linoleic acid via 15,16-dihydro-12-oxophytodienoic acid to 9, 10- dihydrojasmonate. Experiments with synthetic trihomojasmonate demonstrated that β-oxidation is not a prerequisite for biological activity and that 12- oxophytodienoic acid and derivatives are most likely fully active as signal transducers. Octadecanoic acid-derived compounds are essential elements in modulating the synthesis of antibiotic compounds and are thus integral to plant defense.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4099-4105
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 9 1995


  • 12-oxophytodienoic acid
  • jasmonic acid
  • oxylipid cascade
  • phytoalexins
  • signal transduction


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